Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the Turkish Grand Prix?

We learned that all the guff about Istanbul being a track that had passing opportunities was just that - guff. When you have Raikkonen and Alonso both saying that they can’t pass anyone, you have to wonder just what Formula 1 is all about. Pit stops that take around eight seconds twice per race does not add up to much excitement in my book. Wheel-banging action, such as drivers did a few years ago was exciting. One of the people watching the race with me gave up and watched the football instead.
We had drivers like Raikkonen explaining his fastest lap at the end of the race saying, “I was a bit bored with spending the whole race behind another car and so I tried to see how quick I could have been.” I ask you - how quick he could have been! Why didn’t he try for the whole goddam race? We were bored too!
Understatement of the year came from the grumpy Spaniard who said at the post-race press conference, “It was not the plan to lose two places at the start, and so my race was pretty much over when I came into the first corner in sixth place. I was following Nick Heidfeld for 17 laps at the start, and it was very difficult to overtake him.” What do these drivers want? An invitation? We want to see drivers slogging it out. “Difficult to overtake”? Fernando, that’s what motor racing is all about. When you’re in front, you try everything you can to stay there, and when you’re behind you try everything to pass, including forcing the car in front into error. It seems that today’s drivers accept what they get after qualifying and then expect to stay in that position for the race.
BMW looked good after qualifying until we found out in the race that Kubica was running on fumes, and Heidfeld on fumes plus a teaspoon. Quick Nick saying about having jumped Alonso at the start, “Of course I dreamt I could keep him behind me over the distance, but we knew he would refuel later than me. After the stop he was in front of me and he was also faster.” The whole race hinging on refueling stops and petrol load. Such unbridled excitement!
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was in a secure third place until his front tyre blew, and he was very lucky to only drop down to fifth, whilst his team (not very happy) mate Alonso was even luckier, inheriting third and taking another two points out of Hamilton’s lead in the championship. Hamilton does seem to be taking these setbacks on the chin, and the next five races should be closely contested by the world championship contenders, unless they all decide that it’s too hard to pass anyone!
The Renault driver encouragement award goes yet again to Heikki Kovalainen, being told that he was two tenths quicker than the car in front, but that was not good enough and he was expected to reel in three and a half seconds in seven laps. Perhaps Mr Briatore might try praising his drivers occasionally?
As for the rest, they were purely make-weight. Honda shaking hands with themselves because Button pulled up to 13th place! Whoopee! He started 21st and managed to pass the Spykers who currently have all the pace of a baht bus and the Roaring Tossers who are not much better. Button saying after the race, “It was a lot of fun passing 10 cars! If you put to one side where we finished - because 13th position is still far from a good result.” You said it Jenson! You said it!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked you to look at this photo. I did say look carefully at this car. I asked what is it? Clue: 1978, so it was not a Smart. The correct answer was a 1978 Zagato electric car. It was powered by four 12 volt groups of batteries and it had a top speed of around 50 kph and had a range of 50 km. It did not catch on.
So to this week. Eric Broadley, a British architect, built himself a club-special racing car. What was it called? And before you get excited, it wasn’t called a Lola.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

 


Thailand to miss out on Malaysia’s #1?
By John Weinthal
Word whipped around the Bangkok International Motor Show last April that Malaysia’s top-selling car was on the way to Thailand. But now Malaysia’s nominal number two car maker Perodua, which in fact outsells the government-backed Proton by a substantial margin, says this is not on the cards, now and perhaps forever.

Perodua Myvi

Perodua is effectively a member of Clan Toyota with a variety of stakeholders. These include Toyota subsidiary Daihatsu. Five of Perodua’s seven model range are direct Daihatsu clones.
Malaysia’s top-seller, the Perodua Myvi was launched in May 2005. It is a substantially and successfully restyled Daihatsu Sirion (Boon or Toyota Passo in some markets). In May this year a similarly rejigged Mira was launched as the Viva with choice of 660, 850 or 1000cc twin cam, three cylinder engines each featuring fuel-injection and variable valve timing.
Tis a pity Thailand won’t see this pair as both aim for Toyota build standards and are right up with the best of the medium-small and small cars around.
However, Perodua boss Datuk Hafiz Syed Abu Bakar says export of any kind is a very expensive game for a company with annual production capacity of 240,000 and which already has heavy home and other export market demand.

Perodua Viva

“We go no place where we cannot guarantee to provide the best in customer support and back-up service. Where we do export it is through established networks mainly in the Toyota family and where there is no conflict between our product and other Toyota/Daihatsu family models,” Hafiz said.
“For example, the Malaysian Myvi is marketed as a Daihatsu in Indonesia. We in turn assemble the Indonesian-made Toyota Avanza for sale through the Toyota network in Malaysia.”
I recently spent a week covering several hundred km in a Viva 1000 and a few days of more hectic but fewer kays in a 1300cc Myvi. Both were autos. Both were top-of-line models.
First the No brainers: The handsome Myvi has greater eye appeal than the taller, narrower (and fractionally longer!) Viva. Build quality seemed excellent, if not maybe full-on Japanese Toyota. Both are thoroughly thought out and bang on target for the Malaysian buyer.
Both sported airbags, ABS, remote locking, power windows and mirrors, alloys, vestigial rear spoilers and smart inviting interiors. Lesser models do without some of these, notably ABS and air bags.
It was the Viva which took my fancy, to mine and Perodua’s surprise I gathered. It came across as more agile, more ‘fun’ than the “I wanna be a big car” feel of the forever understeery and more softly sprung test Myvi. I also felt the auto and engine match was much more enlightened on the Viva. There were moments when the test Myvi was plain unsure what gear it wanted. It was also less amenable to ‘manual’ changes of the standard pattern centre console auto lever - no paddles or buttons in this market segment!
Both would appeal more to me with their optional manual gear boxes. Auto/air/power steer can be a bit much for either car when it comes to hills or safer overtaking. Wisely auto is not offered for the Viva 660 and 850.
In truth few potential owners will give a hoot about these differences, thus it’s easy to understand that Myvi’s many attractions, well beyond its stylish good looks and Toyota family links, will keep it atop the charts for many a moon.
Conclusion: Viva would make a great Mira alternative. It is a pity that it seems unlikely for Thailand.
Whatever, I came away from a one-on-one 90 minutes with the urbane, articulate and widely experienced Datuk Hafiz and my time with these two cars anything but surprised that at latest count Perodua claimed 39 percent of the Malaysian market in June while Proton tumbled further into the mire in the low 30s (down from around 70 less than a decade back).


Formula 1 calendar for 2008
The FIA has released the provisional calendar for 2008, so start penciling it in to you diary, especially now that we will have two GPs reasonably close to us here in Thailand, with the Malaysian GP March 23 and the new Singapore GP September 28, as the EffWun circus makes its way across Asia. There will be 18 races on the calendar with the addition of Singapore and Valencia (which will be called the European Grand Prix, as the Spanish GP is at Barcelona).
Australia (March 16)
Malaysia (March 23)
Bahrain (April 6)
Barcelona (April 27)
Turkey (May 11)
Monaco (May 25)
Canada (June 8)
France (June 22)
Britain (July 6)
Germany (July 20)
Hungary (August 3)
Valencia (August 24)
Italy (September 7)
Belgium (September 14)
Singapore (September 28)
China (October 12)
Japan (October 19)
Brazil (November 2)


Another local youngster looks at the stars
Make a note of this name - Sandy Stuvik. He is only 12 years old, but has just recently qualified for a place in the ROK Junior World Final for Go-Karts, which will be held in Italy in October. The age group is 12-15 years, so Sandy Stuvik only scrapes in, but he has done so well in the local ROK Junior Thailand championships that he has earned a berth in Italy racing at the South Garda Circuit on October 11-14, 2007.

Sandy Stuvic and proud father

Sandy is Norwegian/Thai and has been racing since he was four years old! His father, Martin Stuvik is also a motor racer who would have liked to have had a crack at reaching F1, but left his run a little late. Drivers like the new sensation Lewis Hamilton also started racing go-karts well before they were in their teens, so young Sandy is going about it the right way, from the right age. By making the world final in this closely contested class, Sandy is also showing he has the raw talent, as well as the wish to proceed up the motor racing ladder.
Congratulations from us all at Automania, and best of luck in Italy!